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DHL to roboticise the whole of its supply chain

DHL vision of sorting centres of the future, featuring lots of robotics and automation technology
DHL vision of sorting centres of the future, featuring lots of robotics and automation technology

DHL says it is approaching a point in time where it decides that “robots are going to become essential in the world of logistics”. 

In a new trend report, Robotics in Logistics, Deutsche Post DHL Group says it is “revealing how collaborative robots will affect supply chains”. Robotics technology may soon be picking, packing and moving goods in the logistics environment.

Matthias Heutger, senior vice president strategy, marketing and innovation, DHL customer solutions and innovation, says: “Robots work in many industries but haven’t made an impact on logistics yet because of the complexity of the work – handling a wide array of different things in an infinite number of combinations, close to people and in confined spaces.

“Current research shows that 80 percent of logistics facilities today are still manual. Recently, however, technology is just starting to catch up to meet demands for flexible and low-cost robots that could collaboratively work in logistics.” 

dhl robot
Pizza delivery will never be the same again

Robots will soon be standard in warehouses around the world

The report highlights that the development of the next generation of robots that can see, move, react to their environment and work at precision tasks alongside people, is on a fast track powered by the explosion in labor-intensive e-commerce and diminishing and ageing workforces.

As a result, investment from government, venture capitalists and large retailers in several countries is driving a new wave of research that is having significant impact on creating robots with logistics affinity. In addition to the US, China, Russia and Japan, Europe is firmly in the robotics race.

With the European Commission’s SPARC program, the EU will invest €700 million into robotics research, and a consortium of 180 European companies has pledged an additional €2.1 billion by the year 2020.

Clemens Beckmann, Executive Vice President Innovation, Post – eCommerce – Parcel, Deutsche Post DHL Group, said: “Just like our children can’t picture a world without computers, it is likely that their children will feel the same way about robots. Developing the next generation of robots that can work around and among people will take a substantial investment to advance the technology but at DPDHL Group we believe that soon supply chains will see humans and robots working side by side to handle goods faster and more economically.”

Results of prototype testing to be shared at Deutsche Post DHL Robotics Day

DPDHL Group has already started testing how robotics could further play a role in logistics. The Group trials collaborative robots in selected warehouse sites to find solutions for transforming supply chains. The speed of technological progress is increasing rapidly with new advancements and breakthroughs occurring almost daily.

The outlook for robotics is very exciting and the world of logistics will benefit from the coming developments in robotic technology. The insights of the tests will be shared at the Group’s first Robotics Day on April 7 at the DHL Innovation Center in Germany, bringing together the leading minds in robotics. The day, which will focus on how humans and advanced robots could work side by side, will also feature tangible state-of-the art exhibitions of leading robotics companies.

The trend report Robotics in Logistics includes insights and updates from leading academics and practitioners from the fields of advanced robotics, and has been created as part of the overarching Logistics Trend Radar, which DHL uses to identify and leverage trends and technologies relevant for the logistics industry.


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